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Watch: Rare weather phenomenon spotted in leadup to Hurricane Idalia

A phenomenon known as St. Elmo's fire was recorded Aug. 28, 2023, at MacDIll Air Force Base in Florida during Hurricane Idalia. (Provided Photo/MacDIll Air Force Base via X)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hurricane Idalia made landfall Wednesday morning near Keaton Beach, Florida, as a Category 3 hurricane with maximum winds of 125 mph.

During hurricane evacuations on Monday, a rare weather phenomenon was captured on video at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.

In the video, a phenomenon known as St. Elmo’s fire appears as a glowing discharge of electricity on pointed objects. Lightning rods, airplane noses and ship’s masts are all types of objects where this can happen.

The name St. Elmo’s fire comes from St. Erasmus of Formia, the patron saint of sailors. In the past, this phenomenon was often observed at sea. Its presence often indicates a lot of electricity in the atmosphere.

According to the National Weather Service, unprotected mariners should immediately move to shelter when St. Elmo’s fire occurs. Lightning may strike the mast within five minutes after it begins to glow.

Status of Idalia

Hurricane Idalia continues to weaken as it moves inland. Georgia and South Carolina could still easily see tropical storm force winds and water rises along the coastline. The path of the storm takes it back over the water over the next couple of days.

The forecasted track of Hurricane Idalia. (WISH Photo)

Hurricane Idalia became the eighth major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. in the last seven years. From 2006 to 2016, there was a drought of major hurricane landfalls in the U.S. with zero recorded. Of course, there were still devasting storms like Hurricane Ike (2008), Hurricane Sandy (2012), and Hurricane Irene (2011), but none of these were major hurricanes at landfall.

Idalia’s major hurricane landfall was the first since 1950 in Florida’s Big Bend area and only the third on record in the Big Bend since 1851.

Hurricane landfalls along Florida’s Gulf coast, 2006-2016 (WISH Photo)

Be sure to stick to WISH-TV for updates on recovery from Hurricane Idalia as well as updates for the rest of the 2023 hurricane season.